Poor, elderly drag queens in conservative Philippines get a lifeline

All first fridays of the month, The Straits Times converses with ST’s correspondents in the Asia-Pacific, the US and Europe, about life as it goes on, amid the screaming headlines and bubbling crises.  In this 25th episode, ST’s new foreign editor Li Xueying can do the hosting duties from our last show presenter Bhagyashree Garekar, who will be the incoming US bureau chief for ST in Washington. Xueying chats with ST’s Philippines correspondent Mara Cepeda about the nation’s ‘Golden Gays’.

They are a group of elderly people of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and other sexualities (LGBTQ+) in their 60s to 80s, who have been staying together and doing pageant shows to support in order to make ends meet. They are also part of the non-profit organisation, The Home for the Golden Gays, established in 2002 by the late Aids activist and politician Justo Justo to give permanent shelter for ageing LGBTQ+ members.

But when Mr Justo lost life in 2012, his family evicted the Golden Gays, who lovingly call themselves ‘lolas’ or grandmothers. Nine of them ended up living in a cramped, two-bedroom apartment in the heart of the slums of Pasay City, also nearby Manila, whilst rest of them rented rooms with the similar dirty living conditions.